The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

January 5, 2013

Law limits how gadgets are trashed

David Hurst

JOHNSTOWN — Christmas traditionally puts the year’s newest high-tech gadgets into homes. And it usually leaves yesterday’s must-haves outside, sitting on the curb for trash day.

Not for much longer, though.

The state’s Covered Device Recycling Act becomes law Jan. 24, making it illegal to throw away most old electronics with the trash.

The effort is aimed at reducing the amount of toxic materials that leach into groundwater.

“The goal here is to take these products out of the waste stream,” said Lisa Kasianowitz, a DEP spokeswoman, noting that many products contain harmful lead, cadmium and mercury. “Items like computers and laptops aren’t biodegradable, so this is an important step.”

But the years-in-the-making effort won’t leave Pennsylvania residents stuck with their old electronics, state officials say.

There are a growing number of options for electronics recycling, including taking the gadgets to retailers, nonprofits and the county’s Solid Waste Authority, Kasianowitz said. In most cases, items are taken free of charge.

Local government

In Cambria County, the Solid Waste Authority accepts many old electronics at its Manor Drive, Ebensburg, location during daily business hours, the authority’s website shows.

Residents can call 472-2109 for more details on the program.

Somerset County residents can take items to JVS Environmental in Shanksville or Ridge Church Outreach, Somerset.

Retail chains

Best Buy touts its program as the “most comprehensive” available.

Originally started in 2008, the company accepts a long list of electronics: Cameras, computers, GPS units and video players.

“Whether it’s old keyboards or 8-track players that have been sitting for years in basements, we’ll take it,” spokeswoman Maggie Habashy said, adding that the devices are accepted at no charge.

Best Buy collects 387 pounds of old electronics at its kiosks for every minute its stores are open, she added.

Staples also offers a free recycling program for office and computer components, its website shows.

Best Buy has added a trade-in program, offering gift cards for many working, newer items such as iPods and cameras.

Thrift stores

Shelves of small appliances and stereos were packed on shelves Tuesday alongside a wall of TVs at the St. Vincent DePaul store on Central Avenue.

William Gilreath, a clerk who works in the store’s electronics department, said he won’t be surprised if more electronics doesn’t end up there.

“A lot of times people aren’t sure what to do with something ... and it ends up with us,” Gilreath said. “If it works out, it might help us a little.”

But thrift stores such as

St. Vincent DePaul are only interested in working items, he said. The Central Avenue location declines old desktop computers and their components, console floor model TVs and some other items.

The Salvation Army accepts used electronics, as does Goodwill. The latter recently started a “Good-to-Go” program, recycling computers and reselling them packaged with flat screen monitors for $199.

It’s a reminder there’s an economic benefit to recycling,

even with old electronics, Kasianowitz added.

Trash to treasure

County recycling programs and electronics manufacturers, in some cases, also will be able to cash in on goods they collect, Kasianowitz said. Some contain precious metals that have significant scrap value.

That could mean an economic benefit for the state, too, she said, although she did not have an annual estimate. But it could trickle down to the neighborhood level.

The Windber Public Library will hold its second annual recycling fundraiser on Jan. 17 from 4 to 8 p.m.

Partnering with Mount Pleasant-based Commonwealth Computer Recycling, the library will accept computers, copiers, fax machines and other devices. Once the items are weighed and bundled, the library will get part of the proceeds, librarian Susan Brandau said.

The library raised several hundred dollars last year, she said.

“It helps. That’s money we can use to buy new books, pay our bills – and stay open,” Brandau said.

Changing times

Electronics manufacturers will take on the bulk of the responsibility through the new law.

Companies selling electronics in Pennsylvania must have plans in place to collect, recycle and transport goods that are covered by the law.

Kasianowitz said products sold in the state must have information about collection programs to inform buyers how to dispose of the products.

For a complete list of recyclable items and more information, call the DEP recycling hot line at 800-346-4242.

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